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Letting Go (Episode 4) By Rachael Asikpo

POSTED 07/14/2018 14:39
3321 Reads Letting Go By Rachael Asikpo, short story on Tushstories
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She purposely went to the party an hour later, hoping to avoid the plastered smiles and pretentious eyes. And despite her musings on picking the most drab cocktail dress she could find, she noticed that heads still swung when she walked by.

Dogs. All of them.
She thought to herself and wondered if her thinking was stereotypical but still she couldn’t help the distaste in her mouth when leering eyes lingered on her covered chest. She wondered if that material was transparent or maybe it was just them, visualizing her bare and plum for the plucking. She flaunted another curt smile, said a few pleasantries before withdrawing from the horde of celebrities socializing.

In the far corner of the room, Ada's sonorous laughter rung out, a rich tinge of tenor and snootiness. She already had a group of men flocking to her, their eyes bright with lust…or amusement. Never nothing in between. She sighed to herself and sipped on the vodka, relishing the bite that trailed down her throat and disappeared in her gut. In the other corner of the room, her boss handled his own retinue of admirers and business partners. All round, stout, short and rich men. They looked odd, like a ring of suited balloons each with a young plaything on an arm.

One of these bloated men was Mr. Pius Etim. The first time he had visited Mr. Bola at the office, his face had struck her as familiar but the memories he stirred were awful ones under lock and key. She had immediately dismissed him.

But now, she could see him again and this time she couldn’t help it.
Ima Etim.
Could it be? Ima had the man's round nose and lashing eyes. If he was truly her father, then she wondered where his daughter might be. Surely, she wouldn’t miss a party such as this, an opportunity to flaunt her peacock wings for all to see.
She cringed so hard she felt the vein on her forehead threaten to burst. She was somewhat relieved Ima was no longer a person in her life. The girl had been a torture back in preschool and high school.

She lifted two fingers to soothe an aching nerve on her forehead. In the background, highlife music serenaded the venue, a mix of treble drums, guitars and loud trumpets. Her ears bled. She took another swig from her glass to wash back down the creeping nausea. She had hoped coming an hour late would lessen the amount of time she would have to spend at this gathering.

“Edima.” His voice came slow and unsure but she knew that voice anywhere.
She spun on her heel.
And there he was, looking rough and worn out in a tired suit, but still a better representation than what he had been earlier that morning. Why did he always look so tired? She wondered. Had God answered her prayers by slapping karma down on him hard after all these years?

Her Christian side hoped not, but her inner-woman rejoiced.

His eyes still dazzled, his lips were still prim and her eyes lingered.
“Edima.” This time he said it surely and she had to acknowledge that he was referring to her and was not an apparition that had just appeared from nowhere. She tore her eyes from his lips and looked down at her glass accusingly. It must be the alcohol.

“Akpan.” She managed to gasp, a bit shaken to see him a second time.
She did not like the trick fate was playing.

“It’s so nice to see you here. I wasn’t expecting to see you.” He raked a hand through his head as he flashed a shy smile.
She watched him for a moment before responding. He seemed so unsure and cautious. Was she having this effect on him?

He ran his eyes over her and for a split second, she hoped to see disappointment in his eyes. Her dress was plain and she hadn’t really bothered with make up…but His eyes widened…in marvel and lingered as they absorbed her full length. She suppressed a frown. How was she having this effect on men?

“I saw you a minute ago and realized you’re just keeping to yourself” He laughed. “Are you avoiding someone?” He tossed his head about, searching for his answer.
“No. I…to be sincere, this party is a drag. I’m only here because my boss says I should be here. I’m tired, I'd rather a warm cup of tea back at home in my bed, really.” She sighed, giving a compensatory smile. But she really did not want to be smiling. She wanted to be under seven layers of wool blankets relishing warmth and quiet.

“Oh. I’m sorry. I’d rather the same really.” He smiled weakly.
“Then why are you here?” She wondered, realizing that she had been wondering that subconsciously for a while. “You’re a lawyer and I damn well know you’re not Mr. Bola's lawyer or Mr. Pius's Lawyer either. I have met with his lawyer before. So why are you here?”
He paused for a moment and his eyes rolled in thought before he finally drawled, “Long story.”
He opened his mouth to continue but she really didn’t want to further this conversation. She did not like the odd sensation in her body and the fact that whenever his lips moved, her eyes watched closely. Too closely.

“Will you look at that?” She sighed as she raised her empty glass, feigning disappointment.
“Let me get you some more drinks. What were you drinking? Vodka? Lots of waiters are running round with that.” He said, already turning to call a waiter.
“Manhattan.” She lied. “I had it whipped up for me at the bar but I’m so tired.” She lied as she stretched her arms.
“Oh, Don’t worry your pretty head. I’ll go get you and I, a glass. Don’t go anywhere!” He beamed and hurried off briskly.

She watched him as he made his way through the dignitaries socializing, watching that taut ass fold and unfold as he strode. Don’t go anywhere. Like hell, she would listen. She had only spent a few minutes talking to him and her eyes had already begun an affair with his lips. She wasn’t taking that chance. Not anymore.

She rose from her seat and hurried in the opposite direction, keeping an eye on him as she went. He was now at the bar, making his order but she was focused on putting as much distance between them.

But her escape came to a jostling halt when she crashed into someone. She grunted on collision and glared at the culprit. It was a smaller man with an even smaller head. His small eyes flashed red in her direction and his flat nose crunched in disgust… but as soon as those eyes ran over her once, the scowl on his lips disappeared and his flat nose relaxed.

“I’m so sorry, my Lady. I’m so clumsy, I wasn’t even looking.” He apologized with a light bow, smiling up perfect cut teeth at her. He was lying and she knew it. He had been coming straight at her. She was the one who hadn’t been looking. He was mesmerized by what he saw. She suppressed the urge to roll her eyes and sigh.
“That’s alright. I’ll just be on my way now, thanks.” She gave a tight smile and moved to sidestep him. He moved with her, brandishing a sheepish smile. Irritation bristled the hairs at the nape of her neck.
“Sir?” She gasped.

“You look like you’re on your own. How can a pretty lady like you be lonely tonight?” He teased with a wink and she suppressed a frown.
“Sir, I’m not alone, this is a freaking party, but thanks for your concern. I’ll be on my way now.” She smiled whilst taking a glance over her shoulder and back at the bar.
Akpan had two drinks in both hands now and he was staring blankly at where he had left her, realizing she was no longer there.

“Wait, don’t tell me you’re Akpan’s girl?” The smaller man scoffed, dragging back her attention.
“No, I’m not.” She spat back and moved to getaway.
He blocked her…again. This time she was blinking back anger.
“Sir…”
“It looks like he’s bothering you. I know Akpan. He's my boy. Works under me at my firm. My name is Jozi by the way. I can keep him off your back throughout the rest of this party. He won’t near you if you’re with me.” He sputtered proudly, heaving his brief chest like a god.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Jozi. My name is Edima Paulson.” She said it and noticed an odd expression appear and disappear from his face. Had he heard about her from somewhere? Now, she was curious.
“Is there a problem?” She asked.
“No, not at all.” He smiled.

Edima glanced over her shoulder again.
Akpan was staring right at them…And he was coming over!

“Fine. You'll be my date for the night.” She said to Jozi, who lit up like a lamb in glee.
“Sure. But only if you'll give me your number after this party. Yes?” Jozi flashed pristine teeth again. She stared at him. This man was starkly ugly and his teeth was his only redeemable feature. Was she going to have this? Her colleagues at work would talk about it for ages. Ada would not let her hear the end of it.
“Edima?” Akpan called as he neared them.
She took a breath.
“Deal.” She said calmly and Jozi bowed again with that irritating smile.

*********


Akpan wished his eyes would fall off!
What was she doing standing next to…that thing!
But most important of all, how could she be smiling down at him. He had been shy and unsure of what to say when he had engaged her before heading to the bar but now he took quick sharp steps towards them, trying to keep the scowl from surfacing on his face. Their faces lit up with smiles when he stopped next to them.

He flourished his signature smile with Edima and gave Jozi a sharp unwelcoming nod.
“I see you've met Jozi.” Akpan noted in crude tone.
“No, we're actually close friends.” Jozi flashed his pristine 32, slipping his lanky arms around Edima's waist.
Every atom in Akpan’s body cringed. For a split second he lost guard and the anger flashed on his face but he quickly recomposed himself and managed a smile.
“What do you mean, man. I’ve known you a long time. You never mentioned her. You never came round with her either…” he paused and added, “Which is queer for a man like you. You always come around with lots of girls. Why never her?”

Jozi’s face paled and Akpan’s insides curled with pleasure. Even if somehow, Edima was attached to this oaf, he would make sure he did his best to taint him before her and sever their relationship.

Edima glanced at him. Her expression gave no meaning. She was relatively calm. He was taken aback.

“You must have misunderstood him. We are long-time friends. I don’t mean we bed each other.” Edima shook her head disappointedly.
“I’m sorry, you misunderstood me. That’s not what I meant.” He feared he had crossed the line although that was exactly what he meant.
“I’m just shocked. I mean, I know this chap but he never mentioned you plus I remember how you and Ima were, back in preschool so, I wonder how you managed to become friends with her brother.” He babbled, grasping at redemption.

He paused when he saw her reaction. Her eyes widened and bulged. They darted from him to Jozi and back to him.

“You're Jozi Etim!” She shot Jozi in the face.
Akpan savored watching the smaller man scramble with an apologetic smile but sadly his perfect cut teeth wouldn’t get him out of this one.

He had told Jozi about Edima sometime back when he gladly became attached to the Etims. Ima had also joked about how she would incessantly torture the poor girl every day in school. Jozi just hadn’t seen Edima before.

“Yes, I-I am.” Jozi stuttered.
Edima ran her eyes over him with disgust.
Akpan wondered how they had been friends for long but she did not know Jozi was Ima's brother or had Jozi hidden his identity from her? The swindling bastard.
“Wait, is Mr. Pius your father?” Edima asked, connecting the dots. It was hilarious to see Jozi’s flutter in confusion but still, he was drawn to the seriousness on her face. Even in anger, she was beautiful.
“Yes, I-I am sorry I didn’t tell you all this. How was I to know you had a fall out with my sister?” He pleaded.

Akpan casually raised the glass to his lips and drained the content, enjoying the melodrama.
“Besides, Akpan has told me a lot about you too.” Jozi’s words punched him in the throat and he almost choked.
What was this bastard about to do to him?
Edima frowned and cocked her head to listen. This was a disaster about to drop.
“Jozi.” Akpan bellowed, hoping to stop the young man.

But Jozi ignored him.
“It’s just funny he's busy fetching you drinks at this party. Have you guys made up? Cause a while back, he pledged himself on being your Zaddy and having you wrapped around his finger like a ribbon. He said those were days of utter bliss, when…”

Akpan’s liver failed him and he could hear no more.
He swung before he could stop himself and satisfaction resonated in him when his fist connected with Jozi’s small feminine jaw…

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